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I've got a small setup using 10gal Rubbermaid totes. 1 tote with pump, 2 with Bell syphons. Air stones in all 3 and down stream air induction in the fluid returns to the main tank to further aerate. 12' hydroton in the grow beds. Our water is very, very hard, so picked up water through a hole in the ice in our local river.

Been cycling the system fish less for a month.

Up until today things were progressing as anticipated re: info on this site. I did the daily test this afternoon and this is the result:

pH 7.4

Ammonia    8ppm

NO2  5ppm

NO 3  20ppm

Water temp 68F

I'm wondering where the heck did the ammonia come from, and the resultant NO spikes. I have not seeded bacteria, and have no plants in place yet. The grandkids have not been around so no peeeeing:)

in the tanks. I was hoping to have the system cycle up naturally over a couple of months.

The system is inside the house. We use wood heat up here and the place stays pretty warm.

The big question for me is, Is this normal for a system to take off like this? I have no plants to put in yet as I figured end of February early March  for starting a crop.

any ideas, input etc. would be greatly appreciated.


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What were the test results the day before?

So if No peeing, then how have you been dosing the ammonia for the fishless cycling?

I would say stop dosing since 1-2 ppm of ammonia is plenty for cycling up.  You have plenty of ammonia and nitrite so don't dose ammonia again till they both drop.  Once they drop you can dose ammonia to 1-2 ppm and then see how long it takes for the ammonia and nitrite to drop.  You want to get to the point where you can dose one day and have both ammonia and nitrite get to 0 ppm in 24 hours.

I started the process back in early January with 2ml ammonia every 3 days until the nitrites started to come up. Then cut it back to 1ml.  It never got above 2ppm. I'm wondering if evaporation is impacting the system. Its been about 2 weeks since I was able to get to the river to get more water. Our domestic water is around pH8.3 and I am reluctant to add it to the system.

Yesterdays readings
pH 7.4

Ammonia  2ppm

NO2   2ppm

NO3  10ppm

Using API Master Freshwater Test kit

I'm wondering, does anyone know if Hydroton holds onto ammonia? I understand its supposed to be relatively inert, but just what does it absorb in the way of dissolved gases etc? any thoughts?

Yup, I think I'll just leave it alone for a bit and see what transpires by the end of next week.

Thanks for the input TCLynx

seems odd to me that ammonia would suddenly be up at 8 ppm.  But just stand by and see what happens.

do you have any snow you could melt to use for top up?

If you have a separate bucket/barrel or tank you might use to prepare your domestic water for use in the system.  If it is treated with chlorine or chloramine you could condition it in the separate container and you could also use some acid to adjust the pH in the separate container so that you don't cause extreme pH shifts in your system while you are trying to cycle.  If you adjust pH with something like muratic acid (hydrochloric acid) I would recommend handling with care and add acid to the water after the container is filled and then let it bubble overnight if you have an extra air stone/air pump handy then check the pH the next day to see if you need to adjust it again since dissolving all the buffer in hard water can be a several day process until you know how much acid you need to dissolve the excess calcium carbonate without going too far.

yes .I figured it was strange, as ammonia is a primary input to the system. I will start treating some water. Thinking about this last night and beginning to wonder if some reagent was left behind in the test tube after last testing and rinsing. Anyway, all good stuff to learn and play around with.

Have a Great One everyone

do an extra good rinse and test again if it seems really strange.

Perhaps test some plain or distilled water to make sure the test kit hasn't freaked out on you.  And sometimes accidents in testing happen.

Make sure no one is trying to help and adding fish emulsion or something to your system?

But it's fishless cycling so no real worry or stress, wait and see.

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